Ethereum mining is coming to perhaps an unexpected place: Norton 360, the antivirus software many readers will know from setting up new computers for their parents (through BleepingComputer). In his press releaseNorton claims its brand is a perfect fit: people looking to mine crypto don’t have to dig through the dark, scary parts of the web, where they might be able to find “unscreened code.”
The company also says it will store users’ crypto wallets in the cloud, with its own Norton Wallet. To the extent that they actually use their winnings, a Norton spokesperson tells us: The edge there will be a button that allows users to “withdraw money to Coinbase”.
Until now, Norton claims, people who wanted to mine had to disable their security software to do it, which made it harder for them. While that may seem somewhat of a problem that could be at least partly caused by Norton 360 itself, Norton does have a point that using software pre-installed on your computer is easier than figuring out how to do mining yourself.
But is that really what we want? Aside from the environmental concerns of thousands of new miners, and the possible unexpected tax implications that BleepingComputer brings forward (not that those are things that should be ignored), the idea of including mining software in a program that ships with people’s computers seems like a slippery slope.
It’s easy to imagine a company, not necessarily Norton, offering cheaper or even free computers, if you simply turn your unused computer cycles into a recurring source of profit for the bloatware makers who subsidize your purchase. Think Kindle with special offers, except instead of ads, you’re taxing your computer’s GPU and sucking electricity when you’re not using it (or, in the case of really shady manufacturers, when you do). Norton may open a door here that is difficult to close.
While Norton specifically mentions Ethereum in its blog post, it told CNN it later considered letting people mine other “reputable cryptocurrencies”. The company is letting early adopters in on Thursday and hopes to roll it out to everyone “in the coming weeks.”